Callysto partner takes coding into Alberta classrooms

Callysto is a free, online, federally-funded tool which helps Grades 5-12 students and teachers across Canada learn digital literacy skills, including coding and data analysis. One way we do this is through our Call for Proposals, which funds digital literacy activities for teachers and students. Meet one of the recipients from our phase 1 Call for Proposals, Discover Coding. They’re an Alberta-based group that helps students aged 5-14 learn and explore computers, game design, and coding to teach them problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.

With the next round of Call for Proposal recipients being announced soon, we spoke with Discover Coding founders Jennifer Lam and Johnny Huynh (pictured above, from left to right). They answered questions about the impact of their Call for Proposal initiatives: “Discover Python with Callysto” and “An hour of Callysto”.

These in-person events reached 780 students in 32 classes, at 11 schools, across Edmonton. Due to COVID-19, they are now offering virtual sessions for teachers and students.

Why did you apply for the Callysto Call for Proposals?

“The mission and goals of Callysto resonated with us and was well-aligned with Discover Coding’s values and mission. We wanted to provide valuable experiences and exposure to computational thinking and coding in schools. We have a passionate and diverse team of instructors who are eager to get in front of kids, to inspire them to learn and create with code.”

What does it mean for Discover Coding to be a Call for Proposals recipient?

“Being a recipient helped further our mission to empower children with the skills needed to be tomorrow’s leaders in the digital world. It gave us an opportunity to share our passion and get more kids excited to create with code and technology. We believe coding is an essential skill for the future – we strive to bring our positive energy to help kids discover and tinker with technology. The funding was made even more impactful by providing teachers free Callysto resources to use on an on-going basis.

The success of our Call for Proposals initiatives shows there’s an appetite and demand for students to learn about coding and technology, and, investments in this area are a step in the right direction for Canada’s future.” 

What surprised you the most when running these classroom sessions?

“We were surprised to see how excited and eager young kids were to learn a “grown-up” language, like Python. It was amazing to see them feel empowered to use code to instruct their computers to solve problems. Kids were particularly excited to see how coding examples were connected to real-world experiences, as it demystified how their games, apps, and technology get created with code.

For example, when students learned about conditionals (adding “if this” or “then” to statements to instruct the computer), they saw a glimpse into how a computer “thinks” and “makes decisions”. They applied this by using Python to program how to check for bus fares when taking the bus, or, how to check for the correct password to open a lock. Students even were able to make a ‘what-am-I’ riddle game for their peers, and all within an hour-long session!

Teachers were thrilled about the program’s connections to Alberta Program of Studies, especially in Math. Students learned about number systems, applied logic, order of operations, and fun applications of it such as the Fibonacci sequence or Caesar ciphers.”

What has been the general feedback from students and teachers about these sessions?

“We noticed a lot of “fist pumps” in the air and smiling faces when kids ran their code and got an output. We also noticed some frustration when they got error messages. We used these as “teachable moments” so we could give them some strategies to debug or troubleshoot. Failing and getting errors is a part of the coding experience (and in life). What is valuable is how we use those errors to problem-solve. Equipping students with strategies to overcome these obstacles is much more empowering. When they discover the solution themselves to fix the bugs, we see the learning happening, the “aha” moments!

We have many students come up to us to thank us personally for showing them something cool. One of the girls at Mount Royal School tracked us down in the hallways to say, ‘I really, REALLY appreciated you guys coming into our class to teach us coding. I had so much fun!’

Not only did the students participate, the teachers learned too. We had a proud 69-year-old teacher, from St. Clement, who ran her first line of code! A part of this initiative is to equip teachers with resources and confidence to introduce coding their classrooms. Coding is a very “hands-on” experience, so we get teachers to be students and follow along as well. Many teachers were really excited about the Hour of Callysto and Discover Python with Callysto materials created and were looking forward to using the same lessons for future classes.

We had positive feedback and testimonials from teachers in every one of our classes. Here are some of the comments:”

“Discover Coding provided a rich learning experience for our students. The Grade 5’s were engaged while having fun! Their clear step by step instructions allowed all learners to participate.”  – Cherilyn Maluga, Grade 5 teacher, Roberta MacAdams School

“My grade 5 class got a nice introduction to coding, they were engaged and excited to learn more.”  – Amy Huddleston, Grade 5 teacher, Mount Royal Elementary School.

“Great program!! Designed perfectly for grade 7/8 and with a focus on step-by-step instruction with lots of support! You will code once this is done!!” – Nick Riemann, Grade 7 teacher, A.Blair McPherson School

“As a teacher, I am responsible for providing programming and instruction that keeps up with current technology. Coding is something that is relatively new to me, and I don’t feel adequately prepared to teach it myself. That is why I am so appreciative that Discover Coding were able to provide this valuable workshop, and all for free! The kids and I learned so much and it was fun.” – Kristin Nelson, Grade 5 teacher, Westbrook School

“My students were very engaged. The staff were so supportive and interactive with the students.” Janay Gervais, Grade 6 teacher, Anne Fitzgerald Catholic School

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“We look forward to continuing to add value to Callysto by reaching more schools, teachers, and students in the Edmonton region. We had over 60 schools apply for the current offerings, and, continue to attract more interest as the word spreads. We’re excited at the prospect of expanding the reach and impact of these programs into rural schools within Alberta, and even across Canada.”

Interested in adding digital literacy into your classroom?

If you’re a Grades 5-12 teacher in Canada, we can show you how to add free, curriculum-tied, Python-based Callysto resources into your classes. Email contact@callysto.ca to get started. Discover Coding also had a variety of classes for teachers and students to teach digital literacy. Get in touch by emailing them at info@discovercoding.ca.

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